Hamlet and the Greek Tragedy Essay

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Aristotle, a Classical Greek philosopher and writer, is the founder of the Aristotelian tradition of tragedy, which states that tragedy should be or seem to be historical.  It should deal with affairs of state and the public lives of great men, whose downfall is caused by a fatal weakness in their character. Renaissance tradition held that tragedy should deal with men who were "better" than ordinary men, such as kings, heroes, aristocrats. The protagonist may be wholly or partially responsible for his own fate or may be the victim of external circumstances and the machinations of those around him. He may accept his fate stoically, or rail against it or against the nature of the human condition.

 

The hallmark of a tragic
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He also takes liberties with the plot structure of Aristotelian tragedy and instead of one straightforward plot, there are three interwoven acts of revenge, all dealing with similar themes and each having a different outcome. In effect Shakespeare gives his audience three acts of revenge, each of which affects the other. Fortinbras attempting to avenge his father's death and deposition from the throne of Norway at the hands of Hamlet's own father in single combat; Laertes determination to avenge the murder of Polonius at the hands of the Crown Prince and of course the central struggle of Hamlet to nerve himself to kill Claudius for the murder of the King.

 

The tension and dramatic "high spots" of Greek tragedy occur at the end of the play, but in Hamlet the most intense moments occur in Act 3 and there are several moments of recognition, beginning with the revelation of his father's murder and ending in the duel scene with the knowledge that he is trapped and poisoned.

 

There is almost no dramatic irony in Hamlet, where the audience is aware of the character's situation and the character does not know himself, until the very last scene when the audience is aware of the poisoned swords and Hamlet is not. Up to that point the audience, because of the peculiar intimacy which Shakespeare builds into Hamlet's character, knows exactly what Hamlet knows as he knows himself! The

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